Study finds we only form three types of friendships


A new research from the sociology department of Dartmouth University discovered found that we only form three types of friendships during out lives.

According to sociology professor Janice McCabe people can be “samplers”, “compartmentalizers,” and “tight-knitters”. The researcher got to this result after she studied the behavior of 67 college students and the link between friendships and academic success. McCabe published her results in a scientific journal with the title “Friends with Academic Benefits”, the whole research being described in a book by the professor that will be published later this year. And while the author studied college friendships she also points out that these apply even later on in our lives.


Each type of these friendships evolve in their own way with rules and a limited number of people. Bellow are a few details about each one of them.

  • “samplers” – the people belonging to this category tend to be more cautious. They tend to form one-on-one friendships and they choose not to rely very much on others. Also, the ones in this category want to achieve success without being helped by others, thus they may feel sometimes that they are socially isolated;
  • “compartmentalizers” – the compartimentalizer has little tribes of friends that don’t know each other; the person has a going out gang, a working group and a friends-from-home group for example. However, people from each group are from the same socio-economic background;
  •  “tight-knitters” – people from this category are the most outgoing. The tight-knitter has a big group of friends in which everyone knows everyone and they offer support every time someone is in need. In the words of McCabe “tight-knit friendships among students from disadvantaged backgrounds can help reduce racial and socioeconomic class gaps in grades and graduation rates.” However, if you are surrounded by people that don’t do their job, the tight-knitters group may become dangerous and bring you down.


You can read more on Janice McCacabe’s results on the complexities of friendships here.

While the ideas are fascinating and to be expected to some extent, the small number of volunteers makes me think the results would change slightly if researches studied a few thousands responses.